“Better Nate Than Ever” and the Teenage Condition

When it comes to young adult literature, it’s important that the story resonates with teens and preteens. Many novelists struggle to pull this off either because they’ve forgotten about the dynamics of primary school, or they have a hard time putting the issues into words.

Author Tim Federle, on the other hand, does an excellent job at capturing teen emotions in his 2013 novel, “Better Nate Than Ever”. This novel shows what can happen when adults fail to understand teenagers. The story has done so well that it’s now set to become a Disney+ film.

Nate Foster

Nate Foster is an insecure eighth-grader who has trouble fitting in with his classmates and his family. Nate’s older brother is the favorite in the household due to his athletic achievements, and Nate is pressured to play soccer despite his disinterest in sports. When Nate voices that he’d like to pursue theatre instead, his family and peers treat it as a pipe dream. On top of this, Nate is constantly ridiculed in school for being different.

Nate’s ultimate hope is to go to Broadway and star in “E.T.: The Musical”. This desire could be a metaphor for Nate feeling “otherworldly” in his small, conservative hometown. Nate eventually takes his brother’s ID and his mother’s ATM card so he can run away to New York City. He does feel some guilt about his actions later, but one could argue that the reason he resorts to such extreme measures is because of how badly his family had been neglecting him.

Nate’s Adventure

Nate doesn’t leave alone: His close friend, Liddy, joins him in his escapade and gives him guidance. Liddy acts as the voice of reason, making sure that Nate isn’t getting ahead of himself and is remaining rational. The pair has to deal with many humorous obstacles, but they eventually take a liking to New York City and the new opportunities it offers.

When Nate auditions for Broadway, he has a rocky start. He has to get over his confidence issues while also pretending like he’s older than he actually is. In time, Nate is able to win his audience over by being himself.

“Better Nate Than Ever” comes with a message that teens need to hear: There’s a place for anyone. There are dark and bright elements in this story, but at the end of the day, Nate’s courage and ambition pay off.


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